An astonishing mistake to drop the ball when going over the try line by new captain Stuart Hogg set Scotland back as they were narrowly defeated by Ireland.
Scotland arrived in Dublin with the tag of also-rans as the hosts were backed to run away with the match at a canter.
But a gritty – if error-strewn – 80 minutes from both sides led to a photo finish at the Aviva Stadium.
Scotland did all the early carrying and in one particularly brutal collision Irish debutant Caelan Doris was laid out and had to be withdrawn after a lengthy spell of treatment.
The Scots had a penalty in front of the posts by this point and Adam Hastings slotted the opening three points of the contest.
The hosts had a chance to level from the tee but chose to kick for touch, a decision from captain Johnny Sexton that proved to be a wise one. After sucking in the Scotland defence, Ireland went wide and Sexton himself ran over the first try of the afternoon. He duly added the extras to move the men in green 7-3 ahead.
From a scrum penalty Hastings then reduced the deficit to one point.
The home crowd was getting restless at the calls from referee Mathieu Raynal but they had little substance to their angst. Another penalty on the left after a fine piece of jackaling by Hamish Watson was pushed wide of the posts by Hastings when he had the chance to nudge Scotland ahead after half an hour.
Presented a more central position to tee it up after a dark blue defender had strayed offside, Sexton was dead-eyed to make it 10-6.
Both sides spurned chances to move the scoreboard before the break. First Sexton dragged a penalty wide, then Scotland failed to convert from a Sam Johnson intercept and the hosts remained four points clear after 40 minutes.
Ireland applied immediate pressure after the turnaround and a series of penalty awards against the visitors eventually yielded three points from Sexton’s boot.
Then came a moment that Hogg will spend the rest of his days trying to forget. After building momentum through the forwards the ball was spun wide to the skipper for an easy dot down – but he dropped the ball over the line to the amazement of the capacity crowd.
A penalty advantage was being played, and Hastings ticked the score to 13-9, but the psychological blow of butchering such a chance was sure to weigh heavy.
Sexton and Hastings traded penalties to make it 16-12 for the final quarter, as Scotland emptied the bench to add fresh legs.
Ireland were taking to the skies to see out the victory and repeatedly targeted Blair Kinghorn under the high ball. With ten minutes remaining Sam Johnson was caught barging the Ireland chaser and allowed Sexton to again stretch the lead to seven points.
A superb break from Watson gave Scotland a chink of light to go and secure a draw. After a punishing set of phase play it was openside flanker Watson caught with a brilliant chop tackle then a strong Irish jackal to send the home crowd into raptures.
Scotland had come close, perhaps even exceeded a few expectations, but their own mistakes meant it was still the result which was being backed at starters orders.
Scotland Player Ratings
Stuart Hogg 6 – Chased his kicks like a man possessed and varied his returns to keep Ireland guessing. Horror mistake to drop the ball when going to ground a simple try.
Sean Maitland 6 – Defensively clever against Ireland’s wide threats.
Huw Jones 6 – Was sucked in allowing Larmour to break but recovered his defence well. Never fully released in attack.
Sam Johnson 7 – Scotland’s most threatening runner. Could have sent Maitland clear if he’d looked to his right on his first half intercept. Conceded a daft penalty in the final ten minutes for barging his opponent off the ball.
Blair Kinghorn 5 – A quiet match in attack and targeted by Ireland in defence. Some bad spills under the high ball.
Adam Hastings 6 – With all eyes on him the stand-off was caught in two minds on occasion and struggled to stamp his mark on proceedings.
Ali Price 6 – Busy around the base of he ruck but never caught the Irish off-guard.
Nick Haining 7 – Impressive debut carrying and tackling hard and trying to cause nuisance at the breakdown. Took high balls well.
Hamish Watson 7 – Tackled ferociously and trademark disruption on the floor. Some huge turnovers.
Jamie Ritchie 6 – Mobile in defence and a great back row pivot with Edinburgh clubmate Watson.
Jonny Gray 6 – All the Gray grunt you expect but little opportunity to show the skills he’s been developing with the ball in hand.
Scott Cummings 6 – Added to his burgeoning reputation on his first Six Nations start.
Zander Fagerson 7 – Extra aggression has been called for and he brings it in spades. Scrummaging – not always his strong point – was solid.
Fraser Brown 6 – Led the pack by example.
Rory Sutherland 7 – Some big carries and strong in the scrum. Justified his surprise inclusion.
Replacements 6 – Forwards played part in late assault on Ireland whitewash but no stand out moments from the bench.